CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — A worship leader from North Carolina and his wife who lost both of their children last month following a car accident told their church family this weekend that they have forgiven the driver who caused the wreck.
As previously reported, Gentry Eddings of Forest Lake Church in Ballantyne and his wife Hadley traveled to Gentry’s sister’s wedding on May 22 where Eddings officiated over the service. The two traveled separately in a caravan of four family vehicles as they returned home the following day. Hadley, eight months pregnant, rode with the couple’s two-year-old son Dobbs.
But as the vehicles came to a stop at a red light in the town of Hempstead, the box truck behind them slammed into the back of Gentry’s vehicle, who was riding in the last vehicle of the caravan. The impact pushed Gentry’s car off to the right, and then struck Hadley’s vehicle, smashing the rear where Dobbs was riding in his car seat.
While Gentry and Hadley sustained minor injuries, Dobbs died on the way to the hospital. Hadley was taken to the operating room for an emergency C-section to deliver the couple’s 38-week-old baby, who they named Reed.
As the baby suffered bleeding on the brain, he was flown to another hospital for pediatric medical attention. He had improved for a time, but on May 25, Baby Reed died as well.
“He took the finger of Gentry’s father, which is a great sign,” David Chadwick, pastor, told reporters following the child’s birth. “They’ve given him a blood transfusion. They’ve taken him off the respirator and he’s breathed on his own.”
Matthew Deans, 28, who was driving the box truck, was soon charged with misdemeanor death by a vehicle and failure to reduce speed. Police state that Deans explained to them that he tried to brake, but his brakes weren’t working.
“He was driving down the road eating and he saw that traffic was stopped,” Trooper Richard Hendrickson told WSOC-TV. “And he tried to stop his truck and it just wouldn’t stop.”
On Sunday, Forest Lake Church held a celebration of Dobbs and Reed’s life, where over 800 people gathered to show their support. Gentry spoke to the crowd, sharing memories from his two-year-old son’s life and the moments that he and his wife were able to spend with their newborn “holding him in our arms before he went to be with his brother in Heaven.”
According to the Charlotte Observer, Gentry recalled that as the family was hectically preparing to attend his sister’s wedding, his little boy shared words from the 46th Psalm that encouraged their hearts.
“It was then that Dobbs’s sweet voice spoke up with a timely reminder. He said, ‘Be still and know that I am God,’” Gentry recalled.
He said that Dobbs’ words have stayed with him ever since and have helped the family get through this difficult time.
Gentry told those gathered that he and his wife have forgiven Deans, and others should as well.
“We have, in our hearts, forgiven the man who did this,” he said. “It was not the easiest thing to do, but in some ways it was because we know—Hadley and I—that Jesus Christ has forgiven us our debt. … So in some ways, it was very easy to forgive a man who made an accident.”
“[F]orgive anyone in your life who you hold anything against,” Gentry urged.
A fundraiser for the family has raised over $192,000, exceeding its $150,000 goal.